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US: Two more laser incidents in Oklahoma City - due to copycat?

There have been four laser incidents in six days, in Oklahoma City, as of June 13 2012. The first two incidents, on June 7, were widely publicized in the area after a boy was identified as lasing a medical helicopter and then a police helicopter sent to investigate. Then, on June 10 and 11, police helicopters were illuminated with a green laser. Derrick M. Sullivent, 20, was arrested and charged with two federal counts of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an airplane. The penalty for each charge is up to five years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

Such a spate of laserings is unusual, according to an Oklahoma City Police Department spokesperson: “It’s kind of rare that we would have this many all at one time.” Some commenters to a News9.com story speculated that the media attention given to the first two incidents may have triggered the second two.

From News9.now, the Norman Transcript, and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma. For a full version of the press release, click the “Read More…” link below.

Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: It would be interesting for the police to question Sullivent, to find out if he was aware of, or influenced by, the media reports of the June 7 laser incidents.

The United States Attorney’s Office
Western District of Oklahoma

City Man Charged For Pointing Laser At
Oklahoma City Police Helicopter

June 15, 2012

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – A federal felony complaint was filed late yesterday charging DERRICK M. SULLIVENT, 20, of Oklahoma City with two counts of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft, specifically the Oklahoma City Police Department helicopter, announced Sanford C. Coats, United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.

"Pointing a laser at any aircraft creates such a serious safety issue that Congress enacted a new statute in February to make it a federal criminal felony offense carrying penalties up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine," said U.S. Attorney Coats. "Lasers can distract, temporarily blind, or even completely incapacitate pilots, putting them and any passengers on board in grave danger. Pointing a laser at an aircraft is both a criminal act and a serious public safety concern."

"Lasers pose a real and perceived threat to our police pilots," said William Citty, Oklahoma City Chief of Police. "State and Federal laws have been enacted to protect our officers from these threats. Individuals who choose to target our pilots with lasers, for any reason, need to know that law enforcement will investigate and seek prosecution of any violator."

The Complaint specifically alleges that on two separate occasions, once on June 10, 2012, and again on June 11, 2012, Sullivent pointed a green laser beam at the Oklahoma City Police Department helicopter while it was flying in the area of 1616 Southwest 86th Street in Oklahoma City. If convicted, Sullivent faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

On Feb. 14, President Barack Obama signed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. As part of that Act, a new criminal offense was established for aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, or at the flight path of such an aircraft. The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams.

These charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma City Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Yancey.

The public is reminded that a criminal complaint is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of the federal criminal laws, and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty. Reference is made to the complaint and other public filings for further information.